The Strain Returns
The Strain was a surprisingly exciting summer show last season. It filled in during the ‘dark’ months and gave me a reason to get in bed early on Sunday night so I could arrive at work well rested on Mondays. So I’m happy to report that its second season started last night. It immediately reminded me of all the things I loved about the show and after watching it I jumped on the internet to check out some other people’s opinions on the show. I was surprised to see that the majority of the articles were fairly negative. This article was originally planned as a commentary on the new episode but now I see a need to write a defense of the show in its entirety.
First off, this show really feels like a hidden gem. I’m sure it gets a good amount of viewers since it got a second season but overall not a lot of people seem to discuss it around the water cooler. This is a positive to me because it makes the show feel more intimate somehow. Maybe I’m just addicted to the more cult driven shows by nature, being a fan of comic books since before they were ‘cool’, but I enjoy having a show that I consider my own little obsession.
The main plot follows the infection of New York City by Strigoi, a Romanian version of Vampire. Except these vampires aren’t sexy and they use small worms to spread their kind and create thralls. A small group of people including C.D.C. scientist’s Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stroll) and Dr. Nora Martinez (Mia Maestro), Rat Exterminator Vasiliy Fet (Kevin Durand), Dutch Velders (Ruta Gedmintas) and an old professor in the vane of Van Helsing named Abraham Setrakian (David Bradley) team up to try to stop the nightmare. That’s not everything though. There is also a splinter group of Strigoi who are looking to stop the Vampire apocalypse as well. Their true motivations are as of yet unknown.
Being about a Vampire Apocalypse the show has to draw a comparison to T.V.’s other big Apocalypse drama the Walking Dead at some point. The show’s don’t actually compete as the Strain is a summer show and they are so tonally and philosophically different that people could watch both and never pick a favorite. That said I do think the Strain has a few things the Walking Dead doesn’t. The first is that the enemies are constantly changing and evolving. In last night’s premiere a new foe appeared for the first time, they are essentially hyper sensitive vampires that resulted from the infection of a bus full of blind children. Yeah, the Strain is just as dark as the Walking Dead at times. That said, unlike the Walking Dead, the Strain’s protagonists have hope. Things look bleak but not only are they able to make a difference by fighting their enemies they may actually be able to end the Vampire Apocalypse at some point. That’s the secret to the Strain’s success. It’s actually a war story.
The first season concerns a lot of Abraham Setrakian’s back story. He survived a concentration camp which was plagued by a Strigoi refereed to as ‘the Master‘ (His back story was just revealed in a twisted fairy tale last night). Setrakian has dedicated his life to hunting and defeating that enemy. Now The Master is leading the takeover of New York City with his lieutenants, a Nazi commander from the concentration camp named Eichhorst (Richard Sammel) and a billionaire with dreams of immortality named Eldrich Palmer (Jonathan Hyde). Together they had effectively assure the downfall of New York. Setrakian and his group are the resistance fighting in an occupied city. It’s a pretty awesome concept for a show if looked at through that lens.
Overall the Strain is in no way a masterpiece of television. It’s very entertaining, has some of the best practical effects on television and keeps me excited during the hour it’s on T.V. I keep thinking back on last season’s episode ‘Creatures of the Night’ as a perfect example of how good this show can be. The season premiere had some fantastic moments, as you’d expect when Guillermo Del Toro directs. I’m not really sure why the show gets so much negative press on the internet but it seems pretty sensible to stop watching a show that you can’t find anything good to say about. That’s what I did with the Walking Dead. That said I have almost nothing but awesome things to say about the Strain and I hope it continues to my television gem on Sunday nights on FX.